- Peugeot’s Loeb moves in on SA Toyotas
- Tuesday’s race leader Al-Attiyah now second
- Today 2017 Dakar heads for the high stuff
SAN MIGUEL DE TUCUMÁN, Argentina – Stage 2 of Dakar 2017 on January 3 saw Toyota Gazoo Racing SA bank another good performance with Nasser Al-Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel (#301) second-fastest of the day.
Team mates Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz (#302) were fourth-fastest and are fourth overall, 2min05 behind new rally leader Sebastien Loeb (Peugeot).
The 275km stage was preceded by a 444km liaison, taking the crews from the Argentine town of Resistencia to San Miguel de Tucuman over a mix of surfaces.
Al-Attiyah/Baumel, who won Stage 1 on January 2, pushed throughout the stage, but saw their overall rally lead slip into the hands of Peugeot rival Loeb. The Toyota SA crew is only 28sec behind, despite the Frenchman winning the stage by 1min23.
Al-Attiyah said after reaching the bivouac in San Miguel de Tucumán (see map): “We tried to push when we could. The good news is our Toyota Hilux ran without problem today, is a relief after the previous day’s scare.”
Al-Attiyah/Baumel’s race bakkie had a small engine fire at the end of Stage 1 and the bakkie was towed for checks and repair by team mate Giniel de Villiers, which was reason for concern as much as their opening stage victory was reason for celebration.
BACKROOM BOYS IN ACTION
The tech crew worked into the night to ensure that the Hilux was in perfect condition for Stage 2. The effort clearly paid off…
De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz were confident after finishing fifth-fastest on Stage 1. That gave them a good road position for Stage 2 and the duo were happy to record the fourth-fastest time of the day. It also pushed them up to fourth in the overall standings, 1min32 behind team mates Al-Attiyah/Baumel.
De Villiers told The Corner in a media release: “It was a good stage and the bakkie felt perfect. We completed the stage only a second slower than Carlos Sainz (Peugeot), clearly showing how good the 2017 Toyota Hilux really is.”
Toyota team boss Glyn Hall admitted that the opening stages have brought a mix of emotions: “We were so pleased to win the first stage, only to have our elation dampened by Nasser’s engine-bay fire.
“We quickly overcame that and prepared the car for Stage 2 and now the race crews have delivered two solid performances. It also seems the stage was much more suited to the buggies – flat, with long straights and plenty of grip. Such elements work for them. This was further borne out by the unusually high average stage speed – 120 km/h.”
Meanwhile, the Dakar media centre reports that Australian biker Toby Price took advantage of the 275km special to let his speed do the talking and pick up a very convincing win on his arrival in San Miguel de Tucuman.
The 2016 overall winner of the Motorcycle class charged from 17th at day’s start to turn a 90sec deficit on Day 1 into a lead of almost three minutes. With a lead of more than three minutes over his nearest pursuers, the 2016 bike winner has a solid advantage in the general standings.
NEW ROUTE -WATCH FOR ANIMALS!
Sébastien Loeb left his mark on the car category by dominating the stage from start to finish for Peugeot. The Frenchman kept his most fierce rival Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota SA Hilux) at bay and picked up his first stage victory of the year as well as the lead in the general standings.
While the competitors are now in a country well known to the Dakar as they visit Argentina for the ninth consecutive year, the region of Chaco had not yet been explored by the rally.
The participants discovered narrow tracks which kicked up plenty of dust in a setting reminiscent of the African savannah. Special attention was required to avoid the many wild animals and flooded fords had to be crossed.
The heat sorely tested the competitors’ bodies on this first long stage on the Dakar Dakar 2017.
SAINZ, DE VILLIERS READY TO POUNCE
In the car race, Sébastien Loeb let rip with his Peugeot over a route on which the Frenchman was able to focus on speed rather than navigation, pushing Toyota SA’s Nasser-Al Attiyah, who opened the road today, to more than a minute behind him as well as taking the lead in the general standings from the Qatari.
In third and fourth, Carlos Sainz and Giniel de Villiers lie in wait while Stéphane Peterhansel lost precious minutes.
In the truck category, Martin van den Brink put in the best performance with his first Dakar stage victory.
Next up on Wednesday (Jan 4) will be the climb to high altitude: Stage 3 will take the crews from the bivouac at San Miguel de Tucumán up to San Salvador de Jujuy and peak at 5000m near the end of the stage.
The total stage distance for the day wil be 512km including a special stage of 416km. The stage will also bring the first high-altitude dunes.
This will be the final stage in Argentina before the Dakar crosses into Bolivia for five days of high altitude racing, as well as the rest day at La Paz.